CDC confirms Zika causes birth defect microcephaly

On Wednesday, the CDC officially announced that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other fetal brain defects.

The decision is based not on one single piece of conclusive evidence, but rather a growing body of research. A report on the CDC's decision was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The report describes the rigorous examination of the evidence that led to the organization's affirmation of the direct correlation between Zika and microcephaly.

"This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak. It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly," said Tom Frieden, MD, director of the CDC. "We are also launching further studies to determine whether children who have microcephaly born to mothers infected by the Zika virus is the tip of the iceberg of what we could see in damaging effects on the brain and other developmental problems."

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The announcement may place added pressure on Congress to allocate more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding that President Barack Obama requested to bolster Zika preparations and resources in the continental U.S. and vulnerable island territories like Puerto Rico.

Misperceptions about Zika are relatively common in the U.S., surveys have shown. "Surveys have told us that a lot of people aren't concerned about Zika virus infection in the United States — they don't know a lot about it... now that we can be more convincing that Zika virus does cause microcephaly, we hope that people will focus on our prevention messages more closely," Sonja A. Rasmussen, MD, the CDC's director of public health information and dissemination and the study's lead author, said in The New York Times.

The CDC's announcement comes after the World Health Organization confirmed scientific consensus regarding the Zika virus' causative link to the birth defect microcephaly, Guillain-Barré syndrome and other neurological disorders earlier this month.

Dr. Frieden stated that the agency's confirmation is in line with mounting evidence and is an affirmation of the organization's "early guidance to pregnant women and their partners to take steps to avoid Zika infection and to healthcare professionals who are talking to patients every day. We are working to do everything possible to protect the American public."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
CDC official: Zika virus is 'scarier than we initially thought'  
This Brazilian physician is using telemedicine to treat Zika patients  
25% of Americans say female athletes should forgo Olympics due to Zika threat 

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